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TREES & Plants

Chinese juniper

Chinese juniper is a durable, adaptable evergreen tree or shrub that can bring year-round color, structure and screening to a dry, alkaline or windy site. Although the species is an erect, conical tree up to 60 feet high and 20 feet wide, a wide variety of cultivated varieties are available for garden and landscape use that range from trees to shrubs down to ground covers. The foliage of scale-like needles is attractive but prickly. In late summer and fall, many junipers have blue-green berrylike fruits, actually modified cones, that attract birds.  Junipers are widely used in bonsai, and are rugged and useful landscape plants. Because they are quite salt-tolerant, they can be used near roads, driveways and sidewalks.

Botanical name: 
Juniperus chinensis
All Common Names: 
Chinese juniper
Family (English): 
Cypress
Family (Botanic): 
Cupressaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Ground cover
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Dry sites
  • Alkaline soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Dry soil
  • Sandy soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Creeping
  • Narrow
  • Oval
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
  • Spreading
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Utility
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Foundation
  • Mixed border
  • Screen
Time of Year: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
More Information: 

Size and Form

Species is a pyramidal to conical tree 50 to 60 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide; many cultivars have different shapes, sizes and habits.

Tree & Plant Care

Needs full sun.
Prefers a well-drained, gravelly site; pH adaptable (to soils from acid to alkaline).
Tolerates dry soil once established.

Disease, pests and problems

Needle blights in wet springs can be a problem; can be susceptible to cedar apple rust.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to animal browsing, including deer.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Asia.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Attracts many birds for the blue-gray fruits.

Bark color and texture 

Old bark is ridged and furrowed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Two types of needle: adult or juvenile (scale and awl).
Adult needles are in opposite pairs along  branches, very short and blunt, needle is convex.
Juvenile needles are awl shaped, arranged in whorls of 3 or opposite pairs, pointed, also convex.
Needle color is green to either blue-green or gray-green.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants).

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Green berry-like fruit (actually cones) that turn blue-gray by fall.

Cultivars and their differences 

Ames  (Juniperus chinensis 'Ames'): Broad pyramidal shrub, 8 to 10 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. Steel-blue young needles turn green when mature. Female cultivar produces silver-blue berries.

Fairview (Juniperus chinensis 'Fairview'): Narrow, pyramidal small tree, 10 to 15 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. Bright green foliage and silver-blue, berry-like globular cones. Older stems have thin exfoliating bark.

Iowa (Juniperus chinensis 'Iowa'): Upright pyramidal small tree, 8 to 10 feet high and 10 feet wide.  Dense, spire-like form opens with age. Blue-green foliage turns green with age. Large blue fruit.

Kallay's Compact Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana Kallay'): Low, flat-topped, spreading shrub, 2 to 3 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. Resistant to most pests (including deer) and to cedar rust and juniper twig-blight diseases. Bagworm can be a problem. Female plants produce berry-shaped cones, but nurseries often do not sell these shrubs with the gender known.

Keteleer (Juniperus chinensis 'Keteleeri'): A broadly pyramidal small tree, 15 to 20 feet high and wide. Disease resistant. Light to medium green foliage. Large fruit.

Mountbatten  (Juniperus chinensis 'Mountbatten'): Narrow pyramidal tree, 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. Dense grayish-green foliage. Large fruit. Excellent winter hardiness.

Pfitzer (Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana'): Wide-spreading shrub, 5 to 7 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide. An old-fashioned juniper variety that is rarely sold but exists in many landscapes. angled branches, sage green foliage.

Sea Green (Juniperus chinensis 'Sea Green'): A compact spreading shrub, 4 to 6 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. Branches are more upright than 'Pfitzerana', dark green foliage remains in winter. Susceptible to phomopsis blight.